17. The Echo Chamber
One morning a while back, I tweeted: “Don’t write like everyone else.”
A coworker replied: “But how can you always tell? I sometimes can’t.”
I said: “Let me get back to you. Eating breakfast and reading the paper. Where everyone writes like everyone else.”
The next day, I messaged her: “I wish I'd thought of a nifty, concise answer before tweeting that! Part of what inspired it was the echo chamber I see in writing, especially online—the same rhythms, the same catchphrases, in many cases the same ‘insights.’ Best I can say is when something sounds familiar to you as the writer, that’s a signal to do it differently. Not just clichés but anything—the tics that everyone out there is using.”
They say—and I believe—that one of the best ways to write better is to read a lot. But sometimes, counterintuitively, maybe you need to read a little less to drown out the echo chamber and let your own voice take shape, in silence.